Conference Countdown: No. 7 Pac-10

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Pre-season Awards

Player of the Year: Klay Thompson, Washington State

Thompson
started the 2009-2010 on a torrid streak, averaging 25.6 ppg over his
first 13 games. A volume shooter in just about every definition of the
word, Thompson’s game is based around his excellent shooting range (ask San Diego).
The rest of his game has developed — he’s a better shooter off the
dribble, he showed improvement getting to the rim and getting to the
line — but as good as Thompson was during the first few months of the
season, he struggled quite a bit in Pac-10 play. As the focal point of
every defensive scheme, Thompson struggled to get to the foul line at
the same rate and started forcing tougher and tougher shots. As he gets
stronger and continues to develop his offensive repertoire, there is
reason to believe that Thompson will be able to handle the defensive
focus this season. And as Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto continue to
improve around him, don’t be surprised if he gets easier opportunities.

And a close second goes to: Isaiah Thomas, Washington

Thomas
is a dynamo. At just 5’9″, the lefty is a terror to keep out of the
paint. More of a natural scorer than a natural point, Thomas is strong
enough to bully his way to the rim against bigger opponents and
athletic enough to finish when he gets there. He’s a streaky shooter,
but when he is on he’s as dangerous a scorer as you will find on the
West Coast. Thomas, and the Huskies, were considered major
disappointments last February, as Washington was struggling to remain
above .500 in a very weak Pac-10. But Thomas played great basketball
down the stretch, improving his shot selection, limiting his turnovers,
and becoming more of a leader than just a scorer. Washington fans hope
that carries over into this season.

Breakout Star: Malcolm Lee, UCLA

There
are a few guys I liked in this spot — Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Nikola
Vucevic, and Reggie Moore, to be specific — but I think Lee is hands
down the most talented of that group. It also means that his first two
seasons have been quite a disappointment. Lee is talented, there is no
question about that. He’s 6’5″, he is athletic with an awesome first
step, and he is quick-learner — he spent much of last season playing
the role of point guard as Jerime Anderson continued to struggle. There
are some things Lee certainly needs to work on — his jumper has been
lacking, as well as his shot selection (when you shoot 25% from three,
you shouldn’t be taking a third of your shots from beyond the arc), and
he could use some strength on his frame — but this kid was predicted
as a first rounder before last season. If the Bruins can find some
stability at the point and Lee can slide into his more natural spot off
the ball, he could make a big leap this season.

All-Conference First Team:

  • POY – Klay Thompson, Washington State, Jr.
  • G – Isaiah Thomas, Washington, Jr.
  • G – Malcolm Lee, UCLA, Jr.
  • G – Reggie Moore, Washington State, So.
  • F – Nikola Vucevic, USC, Jr.
  • F – Derrick Williams, Arizona, So.

All-Conference Second Team:

  • G – Jeremy Green, Stanford, Jr.
  • G – Ty Abbott, Arizona State, Sr.
  • G – Allen Crabbe, Cal, Fr.
  • F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington, Sr.
  • F – DeAngelo Casto, Washington State, Sr.

Freshman of the Year: Allen Crabbe, Cal

The
past two seasons, Cal has been one of the most fun programs in the
country to watch simply because of the outstanding talent they had in
their back court — Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson.
But with those three graduating, the Golden Bears are going to have to
rely on freshmen to pick up the slack. The best of the bunch in Crabbe,
a 6’6″ shooter that was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in
California last season. Known primarily as a jump-shooter, the rest of
his game really started to develop during his senior season. And with
the underrated Gary Franklin running the show, Crabbe should be plenty
of good looks this year.

All-Freshman Team:

  • G – Gary Franklin, Cal
  • G – Kaela King, Arizona State
  • G – Terrence Ross, Washington
  • G – Roberto Nelson, Oregon State
  • F – Josh Smith, UCLA

What Happened?:

  • Expansion:
    This will be the final season of the Pac-10. While the conference
    didn’t quite get the 16 teams they wanted by swallowing up the majority
    of the Big XII, the league did manage to add Utah and Colorado to their
    mix.
  • Oregonian Drama: The Ducks pretty thoroughly embarrassed themselves
    as they chased the like of Brad Stevens and Tom Izzo and Mike Anderson
    and, well, pretty much any coach that you can name. Eventually, they
    landed Dana Altman from Creighton, which, all in all, is a pretty good
    hire.

    That wasn’t it. Terrence Jones originally committed to the Washington Huskies in a press-conference with high school teammate Terrence Ross. But he eventually went back on that commitment and is now at Kentucky. He wasn’t the only player to waffle on Washington. Enes Kanter did as well,
    and he ended up at Kentucky too. Oh, and 2011 recruit Tony Wroten seems
    to be down Kentucky and Washington, amongst others. Anyone else think
    the potential matchup between Kentucky and Washington in Maui will be fun?

  • You gotta feel for this kid: Stanford’s Andy Brown.
    He missed his senior year in high school, he redshirted last season,
    and he is going to miss this season. All because he tore his left acl three times.
  • Arizona State has an eventful offseason: Rihard Kuksiks nearly left school. Kyle Cain originally signed with Rhode Island, but after he was let out of his LOI by URI, he ended up in Tempe. Carrick Felix, a JuCo transfer, originally committed to Duke, but then went back on that and he, too, is at Arizona State. Then there is Demetrius Walker (remember him?) who is now headed to New Mexico.
  • More UCLA turnover:
    Transfers galore into and out of Westwood. J’Mison Morgan is headed to
    Baylor, Mike Moser is off to UNLV, and Drew Gordon bounced to New
    Mexico. But Ben Howland also brings in some transfers. David and Travis
    Wear, the twins from UNC, will both be eligible next season, and
    Lazeric Jones in a JuCo player brought in to help shore up the Bruin’s
    back court problems. And Ben Howland brought in Matt Carlino a year
    before he graduated high school.

What’s next?:

  • Expansion:
    Utah will be joining the league next season, and Colorado will be
    coming on in 2012. The question is now how will the conference be
    divided up. It seems reasonable to assume that the league is going to
    go to two divisions — they want that football title game and all. But
    every school wants to be in the same division as USC and UCLA. Its
    quite the recruiting advantage to be able to play in Southern
    California every season.
  • Unpredictability: There is so much youth (there are 17 seniors in the conference. 17!!!!),
    so much turnover, and so much mediocrity in the Pac-10 this season that
    predicting this league after Washington at the top is nothing more than
    a crap shoot. While there may not be a ton of NCAA Tournament teams and
    lottery picks coming out of this Pac-10, what we can count on is
    entertaining basketball games and a wild conference championship race.
    The Pac-10 is going to be fun to follow this year.
  • Roberto Nelson: Nelson was Craig Robinson’s star recruit in the class of 2009, but he was never able to get academically eligible.
    Well, Nelson will be allowed to play this season. Can he help turn
    around the Beaver program? Nelson was also featured prominently in
    George Dohrmann’s book Play Their Hearts Out.
  • Who is that team in green?: I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t recognize the Oregon basketball team next season. New head coach. Four transfers. And a new court. Need I mention the Michael Dunigan mess?

Power Rankings:

  1. Washington:
    The Huskies lose Quincy Pondexter, who was the only first rounder to
    come from the Pac-10 last season. But even with that loss, U-Dub is
    essentially the only program in the conference that could be considered
    to be doing well. After a Sweet 16 trip last season, Lorenzo Romar
    returns everyone of consequence save Pondexter. The diminutive Isaiah
    Thomas will be back for his junior campaign to lead the Huskies back
    court. Thomas is a big-time scorer and playmaker and will be
    complimented very well by Venoy Overton, who is probably the best
    defender in the conference. Also expect big things from Abdul Gaddy,
    the second-rated point guard in the class of 2009 (behind John Wall)
    that struggled at times as a 17 year old freshman. Also joining them in
    the back court will be freshman Terrence Ross, a 6’5″ shooting guard
    that should be able to contribute immediately, and 6’6″ wing Justin
    Holiday (Jrue’s older brother), a lanky and athletic small forward. Up
    front, this team certainly has the talent, the question is whether that
    group ever reaches that level. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is a 6’9″ power
    forward with length and athleticism that will be counted on to replace
    some of Pondexter’s scoring and boards. Behind him, Darnell Gant and
    Desmond Simmons will be asked to play more predominant roles, while
    JuCo transfer Aziz N’Diaye will a shot-blocking presence, and very well
    could end up in the starting lineup. The front court depth took a hit
    when Tyreese Breshers retired due to injuries. Washington right now is
    the hands-down favorite to win the Pac-10. If they don’t, they have
    only themselves to blame.
  2. Arizona: In
    a wide open Pac-10, the Wildcats certainly have the talent necessary to
    make a run at the league title even with the loss of Nic Wise. The
    problem is that the majority of that talent is going to be freshmen and
    sophomores. Derrick Williams should be one of the best sophomores in
    the country, and will be even more productive as his post game
    develops. Senior Jamelle Horne isn’t the brightest,
    but he does have some talent and his ability to spread the floor will
    help create space for Williams inside. Solomon Hill, Kryrl Natyazhko,
    and Kevin Parrom are all sophomores, and their development this season
    will go a long way towards determining how good Arizona will be this
    season. Perhaps the most pressure, however, is going to fall on Lamont
    “MoMo” Jones. Arizona is known as Point Guard U for good reason, and
    MoMo is the one that will be taking the reins this season. MoMo showed
    some promise as a scorer last season, but he will be counted on to be a
    leader and a distributor this year. Joining him in the back court will
    be junior Kyle Fogg, who has proven to be a solid scorer and shooter,
    along with junior Brandon Lavender and freshmen Daniel Bejarano and
    Jordin Mayes. The Pac-10 is difficult to predict, Arizona even more so
    with their youth. This team could put it all together and make a run to
    the league title, or they could suffer from inexperience and finish
    below .500 in the league. Neither would surprise me, but the former
    seems much more likely than the latter.
  3. UCLA:
    Last season, UCLA finished below .500 overall and in Pac-10 play. And
    while they lost Michael Roll, Nikola Dragovic, and James Keefe as well
    as Mike Moser, J’Mison Morgan, and Drew Gordon to transfer, there is
    reason to believe that UCLA can have more success this season. For
    starters, there is Malcolm Lee. Lee has yet to live up to the hype he
    had coming into the program, but if he can iron out some of the
    inconsistencies he had last season, there’s hope that he can eventually
    fulfill that potential as a junior. Jerime Anderson is back at the
    point, although he has never lived up to his hype, either. Lazeric
    Jones, a JuCo transfer, was brought in to compete with Anderson for
    minutes and, potentially, a starting spot. Joining them in the back
    court will be freshmen Tyler Lamb and Matt Carlino. The biggest issue
    will be up front, as most of the Bruin big men have left the program or
    will be sitting this season out. Sophomore Reeves Nelson looks primed
    for a big bump this season. The tough, physical Nelson plays power
    forward like a football player and once he adds some post moves to his
    repertoire, he could be a dangerous player in the conference. Joining
    him up front is Tyler Honeycutt, who is more of a perimeter player than
    a front court player, and Josh Smith, a 6’10” behemoth. At one point,
    he reportedly weighed over 300 pounds, but the latest on Smith is that
    he is much better shape. Depth, inexperience, and a lack of size will
    likely be issues, but there is talent on this roster. Who develops —
    and how much they develop — will determine how good this team ends up
    being.
  4. Washington State:
    The Cougars lost six players to transfer, but only one — Xavier Thames
    — played any kind of significant minutes. The Cougars also lost
    starter Nikola Koprivica to graduation, but beyond that they return
    four of their top five scorers. Klay Thompson is the best returning
    player in the conference, a scorer that has developed a solid offensive
    arsenal based around his dangerous jumper. He can score points in a
    hurry. Reggie Moore had a very productive freshman campaign at the
    point, and DeAngelo Casto is one of the better big men in the Pac-10.
    Those three combined form arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the league.
    The problem is there is not much depth on this team. They really only
    went seven deep a season ago, and with two of those seven gone, Bone
    did not bring in much of anything in the recruiting trail. Marcus
    Capers and Brock Motum will both see time, likely as starters. If Bone
    can develop a bench for this group, they have a shot at making an NCAA
    Tournament run.
  5. California:
    The Golden Bears are essentially in complete rebuilding mode. Their top
    four scorers — essentially their only four scorers — from last season
    all graduated, and sixth man Omondi Amoke was booted from the program.
    The leading returning scorer is Jorge Gutierrez, a scrappy, 6’4″
    off-guard known more for his defense than anything. That said,
    Gutierrez was a solid play maker and shooter the last two seasons
    playing a supporting role, meaning he may be able to elevate his game.
    He likely will need to, as the rest of the Cal back court looks to be
    freshmen. Allen Crabbe is a shooter and the reigning Gatorade
    California player of the year and Gary Franklin seems poised to take
    over the point guard role, while fellow freshmen Emerson Murray and
    Alex Rossi, along with sophomore Brandon Smith, will contribute
    minutes. The front court will be more experienced. Markhuri
    Sanders-Frisson returns, as does Harper Kamp, who get redshirted last
    season with an injury. Sophomore Bak Bak will provide depth for the
    Bears up front, and don’t be surprised is freshman Richard Soloman sees
    minutes with 7’3″ Max Zhang leaving to play professionally in China.
    Mike Montgomery knows what he is going to get out of his front court —
    size, toughness, experience, leadership. The question mark is the back
    court. How good Gutierrez, Crabbe, and Franklin are will likely
    determine how good Cal ends up being.
  6. Arizona State:
    The Sun Devils lost quite a bit this season. Derek Glasser, Eric
    Boateng, and Jerren Shipp all graduated. Victor Rudd, Demetrius Walker,
    and Tyler Rohde all transferred. That said, Herb Sendek still has some
    talent on his roster. He caught a break whenRihard Kuksiks decided not
    to turn pro in his native Latvia. Ty Abbott is a senior and has
    developed into a more-than-capable scorer on the wing. Jamelle
    McMillan, the son of Nate McMillan, should be fine stepping into the
    point guard void left by Glasser. Trent Lockett showed flashes of being
    a big time player as a freshman. That’s a solid returning back court,
    and we haven’t even gotten to the talent that Herb Sendek brings in
    this year. Keala King is the most highly rated recruit, a 6’5″ guard
    with a nice, all-around offensive arsenal that should see minutes
    immediately even if Kuksiks is back. Brandon Dunson and Corey Hawkins
    should also compete for minutes in the back court. The bigger issue
    will be up front. Ruslan Pateev is a 6’11” sophomore that didn’t get
    many minutes as a freshman. 7’2″ Jordan Bachynski also joins the fray.
    The more interesting prospects, however, are Kyle Cain and Carrick
    Felix. Both are relatively small, but Felix is a dynamic athlete that
    originally committed to Duke and Cain, a bit bigger, will provide some
    toughness and strength inside. If Sendek somehow develops his front
    court, the Sun Devils have a shot at a tournament berth.
  7. USC:
    The Trojans likely wish that this season was the one they would face
    the postseason ban, not last season. But as we all know, USC AD Mike
    Garrett tried to save Trojan football by throwing Trojan hoops under
    the bus, which is a shame because USC was poised to surprise quite a
    few people. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pieces on this roster.
    Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic both return, giving the Trojans one
    of the better front lines in the Pac-10. And while the Trojans do lose
    Mike Gerrity, they bring in Fordham transfer Jio Fontan, who will
    become eligible in December. Beyond that, however, the question marks
    begin. How will Donte Smith, Marcus Simmons, and Evan Smith handle
    expanded roles this year? Will USC’s recruiting class — headlined by
    four-star shooting guard Bryce Jones — be able to contribute
    immediately? Because if the Trojans want to have a chance at being
    relevant this season, they will need more than just Stephenson,
    Vucevic, and Fontan.
  8. Oregon State:
    Once again, Craig Robinson is going to have a rough go of it in
    Corvallis. Gone is the talented Roeland Schaftenaar and both of the
    Tarver brothers, meaning that the Beaver’s Princeton-style offense will
    be based around the talents of senior guard Calvin Haynes. Joining
    Haynes in the back court will, in all-likelihood, be redshirt freshman
    Roberto Nelson, Robinson’s prized recruit in the class of 2009 that
    couldn’t get eligible, senior Lathan Wallace, and sophomore Jared
    Cunningham. Also don’t be surprised if Chicago native Ahmad Sparks, a
    5’8″ freshman point guard, sees time as well. Up front, Joe Burton,
    Omari Johnson, and Daniel Deane all return, but the real star in the
    front court could very well end up being Devon Collier. A product of
    Bob Hurley and the famed St. Anthony’s program, Collier was a pretty
    heavily recruited prospect. Freshmen Eric Moreland and Chris Brown
    should also compete for time. the Beavers will once again have a tough,
    competitive team, but they lack the talent to be a real threat in this
    league.
  9. Stanford:
    The Cardinal finished second to last in the Pac-10 last season, and
    they will head into this season without their star Landry Fields, who
    is now a New York Knick. They do return Jeremy Green, the only other
    player on the roster to average double figures. Green is a 6’4″ guard
    known mostly for his ability as a spot-up shooter. Joining Green in the
    back court will be Jarrett Mann, a 6’3″ junior that led the team in
    assists as well as turnovers. Jack Trotter and Andrew Zimmermann both
    return up front, but beyond that, Stanford’s rotation will essentially
    be made up of freshmen — there are eight on the roster total, not
    including the injury-riddled Andy Brown. Dwight Powell is a five-star,
    6’10” center, and Anthony Brown is a top 100 two guard that should
    contribute immediately. Johnny Dawkins is showing promise on the
    recruiting trail, but he still has a while to go until this Stanford
    team will be competitive.
  10. Oregon:
    Good luck recognizing the Ducks next season. Ernie Kent is gone,
    replaced by Dana Altman. Mac Court will soon be gone. Leading scorer
    TaJuan Porter is gone to graduation. Jamil Wilson, Matthew Humphrey, Drew Wiley and Josh Crittle
    all decided to transfer, and Malcolm Armstead very nearly did as well.
    Michael Dunigan left the program amidst a potential scandel to sign
    with a professional team in Israel. Oregon is in trouble this year.
    Armstead is their leading returning scorer and creator, but he is
    really the only threat they have. Joevan Catron returns after receiving
    a medical redshirt, while LeKendric Longmire, Jeremy Jacob, Teondre
    Williams, EJ Singler, and Garrett Sim round out the returning rotation.
    A run to the top half of the league would be an impressive feat for
    Altman.

“I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says after bump from official

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Tennessee 63-58 loss to Texas A&M wasn’t without some controversy.

In the final seconds of the game, official Mike Nance appeared to bump into Vols coach Rick Barnes, who was standing stationary on the sideline, and the two exchanged words.

“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they are going to look at that,” Barnes said after the game about the incident, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I believe they will look at this game and take it apart. I just think they will do that. That shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form. I would like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing.”

Nance was headed to the monitor to review a call when the bump occurred, and Nance appeared to ask Barnes if the coach initiated the contact.

“Coach (Bob) Knight told me a long time ago that in a game officials are going to miss seven to nine or 10, 11, 12 calls,” Barnes said. “He kept going up every year. He said, ‘You just hope things aren’t egregious at any point in time.'”

Coach K screams at Duke fans, defending Jeff Capel

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In one of the stranger things that we’ve seen in college basketball this season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went off on the Cameron Crazies for what he believed was a shot they were taking at former Duke player Jeff Capel.

The crazies were chanting, “Jeff Capel sit with us.” Coach K thought he heard something else.

Check out the video:

After the game, Coach K acknowledged that he misheard what the fans said, adding that he will apologize for the mishap.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “But I’d rather make a mistake for the protection of my guy.

“I love Jeff. I erred on that side. I just hope the ACC doesn’t fine me like they did [Mike] Brey.”

He ended the back and forth with this: “Jeff can sit with me anytime.”

 

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

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It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble): Utah State absolutely could not lose at Wyoming (299) on Tuesday, and they didn’t. The Aggies have neutral site wins over LSU (25) and Florida (37), which is enough to keep them in this discussion despite road losses at Boise State (102), UNLV (130) and Air Force (184). They make the trip to Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State (2) on Saturday, and that feels like a must-win for Utah State at this point.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out): The Boilermakers dropped to 11-10 on the season with a 70-63 loss at Rutgers (23) on Tuesday night. That means Purdue has dropped five of their last seven games. They’re 2-7 against Quad 1 opponents with a 29 point win over Michigan State (8), but there are a lot of losses on their resume already and the Big Ten is a bear.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): The Hokies did themselves no favors by losing at Miami (106) on Tuesday night. In the last three days, they’ve suffered their two worst losses of the season. The Hokies also have a non-conference SOS that ranks 341st, which eliminates much of their margin for error. The good news? They still have pair of Quad 1 wins — including Michigan State (10) on a neutral — and four of their five Quad 1 and 2 wins came away from home. It’s not all bad.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Hoyas lost their third straight game on Tuesday night and have now dropped six of their last eight. Making things worse is that they were up by 13 points on Butler (9) late in the first half. This was their best chance to land an elite win this season. They still get Villanova (14) and Seton Hall (12) at home, but the biggest issue with Georgetown’s tournament chances is that they are trending in the wrong direction with just seven scholarship players.

Virginia upends No. 5 Florida State, 61-56

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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Remember back to the season’s opening night? Nearly three months ago? That was when Virginia embarrassed Syracuse in a 48-34 win. That game foretold a lot of the season up to this point for the Cavaliers. Their title-defending team would have the defense that’s defined Tony Bennett’s program while the offense, well, that would be a bit of a struggle. What it did not predict was more Quad 1 wins, as the Cavaliers, despite a dominating defense, failed to rack up another such victory after that season-opener.

Until Tuesday.

Virginia injected some life into its NCAA tournament hopes with a 61-56 win over fifth-ranked Florida State in Charlottesville to pick up a critical victory in an ACC that offers far fewer marquee opportunities than in years past.

The victory was exactly what Bennett’s team needed to help buoy that resume before the start of February. January was extremely rough on them with a 3-4 mark before the win over the Seminoles put them at .500 for the month. With only four chances left against the ACC’s best of FSU, Duke and Louisville, beating the Seminoles at home may not have been an absolute-must for the Cavs, but it sure makes it a lot easier to chart a path to the tournament now, even if it’s still a rocky road, than if they had dropped the game.

Point guard Kihei Clark scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime, changing the game offensively for the Cavaliers with his dribble penetration into the middle of the Florida State defense. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his ability to get into the teeth of the defense – creating some buckets and free throws for himself and chances for his teammates – provided just enough lift for the offensively-challenged team. His beautiful reverse layup with a minute left gave Virginia a lead it would not relinquish as it closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine boards for Virginia while Braxton Key had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The loss stops a 10-game winning streak for the ‘Noles, who led for most of the game but could not ever find any meaningful separation. Devin Vassell had 17 points to lead Florida State, which had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but missed both 3-point attempts horribly. If Virginia can surge a little in the season’s final month, this win won’t be much more than a missed opportunity for the Seminoles, but if it proves to just be a blip on the radar for Virginia, Florida State may have done some damage to its seed line Tuesday.